Saturday, December 11, 2010

Query Letter Blogfest

Thank you Jodi Henry for hosting this great blogfest. I plan to dig in with the query process once more in January, and a critique or two will be greatly appreciated. Click HERE to follow Mr. Linky to the other participants. I can't wait to read all the queries.

Please be as critical as possible. The greatest weakness that I know I have is the personalization of the letter. I sound corny or just stupid in most of them. Any advice will be great! Thanks in advance. Oh, I should mention this received a form rejection, and in my defense I was trying to be honest.

Updated based on comments. Red is new, deleted is crossed out.

Dear Caitlin Blasdell,

You’re a hard cookie to research. In the end, I chose to query you for your earlier work with Kevin J Andersen and William Shatner. I’ve read some of their books and thoroughly enjoyed them. As a fellow lover of science fiction and fantasy, I hope you will enjoy my mix of the two. SENDEK is a complete science fantasy novel of approximately 83,000 words.

If the military discovered someone capable of healing herself, every scientist on the planet would want a piece of her.

Astronomer Talia Shannon hides her magical gifts  abilities out of fear of becoming the national science project. She can glean energy from the sunsrise Sendek's binary suns to heal herself and others, communicate with trees, and is clairvoyant. receive visions of the future. Unfortunately, her prophetic nightmares point to an approaching invasion. How can she warn the military without exposing her secrets? She has spent her life searching for the scientific proof needed to warn and protect her planet.

After thousands of years in exile, the Dragumen, a human dragon hybrid created in Sendek’s past, have returned to claim the planet as their own. They steal stole technology from the worlds they destroyed on the journey home, and perfectinged their military prowess. Now smarter and stronger, they plan to wipe out the humans on Sendek.

Talia must learn to trust the magic coursing through in her veins and the handsome Commander Landry if she wants to survive the invasion. Talia's blood lines lead back to the mage who created the Dragumen, giving her the power to destroy them if only she can learn how. When science fails to protect her way of life, magic becomes the only hope.

The complete manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Charity Bradford

20 comments:

  1. I think it's a good opening but maybe it would be more efficient to begin with the description of your book? That way the agent wouldn't be wondering what your point is for too long. Then you could go into the research you'd done on the agent about Shatner and Anderson.

    Jai

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  2. Hi Charity,

    So I have a few suggestions for you here. First sentence, I was thrown when you said "magical gifts." In the terms of anything sf/f writing, you need to be specific. Magical gifts could literally be like an artifact. You should say "magical abilities." That way, we know it's her. Other than that, first line is a sure hook. National science project sold me. Consider also in P1 to change the end to say "and is clairvoyant." It's less words for saying "and can receive visions from the future."

    I would chop the first sentence all together and start with your protag's name.

    P3: Shorten first sentence to "trust the magic in her." I love the last sentence on this paragraph though. It's a backwards approach to the novel as you introduced the other way in the opening. She's a scientist who has magic, but now must use magic over science to win the battle. It's a great flip.

    Hope this helps.

    JWP
    In My Write Mind

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  3. Thanks Jai, some of my agents wanted it this way so I just left it. But I think you're right, and I'll flip it for those not specifying a preference.

    Justin, thank you! Abilities is a much better word. Funny how our brains quit at the word "query". :D I agree with each of your observations and wish I'd thought of them myself. Really glad you like my "flip".

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  4. Hi -- interesting story based on the query. My thoughts -- I'd start the query with this sentence: "Astronomer Talia Shannon hides her magical gifts out of fear of becoming the national science project." I'd get rid of the first paragraph altogether. Why tell her that she is hard to research? She wants to know about your story.
    Then I would add this sentence somewhere in the middle or end: "SENDEK is a complete science fantasy novel of approximately 83,000 words."
    I also agree that magical abilities sounds better than gifts.
    Best of luck! Look forward to seeing your work available soon.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I thought this was really good and certainly drew me in. The story is a great premise and, to be honest I fell there is very little room for improvement. Justin made some excellent points. (Although I rather liked the first sentence - it made me smile, even if it was a bit of a distraction!)

    I would like to add just a few little niggles ...

    sunrise (you had typo?)

    Can I suggest P1 final sentence ... for the scientific proof she needs to warn ... it seems like nothing, but it got me confused!

    In order to tie in with the second paragraph I think you need to mention Sendek in the first paragraph. I naturally assumed they were on earth.

    P2 - just a question. Does the Dragumen stealing of alien technology happen during the book or has it happened in the past at the start of the book? If the latter P2 Sentence 2 needs to be in the past.

    I could really imagine a crotchety agent after a bad morning throwing a hissy fit at being "accused" of being hard to research! They wouldn't get past the first six words. I was surprised that some agents like the personal stuff at the start - I haven't seen any examples of it, but the important thing is to do what the agent wants!

    :Dom

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  6. Hi,

    I'm going to be brutal here and say to slash/cut/burn the Shatner paragraph in its entirety. It does nothing to sell your proposal.

    Go for the jugular with your log line: If the military discovered ...

    Put details re word count at end of query. Other than that, it's a great query! ;)

    best
    F

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  7. Many agents prefer a personal reference at the beginning since they then feel it is not a mass query mailing. Read the interviews given by the agent you're sending to and go with what hints they give you.

    Each agent is different. Human nature stays the same. Agents are eye-weary and fatigued by the number of queries they must read. Just make the letter as entertaining, smoothly flowing, and as short as possible, giving a TV Guide statement of what your novel is about -- and you'll be fine. Roland

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  8. It's interesting to read this as I'm pretty sure I've read posts that were pitches for the novel. I have a hard time with the personalization part as well. While it's important for certain agents, I'm not too fond of the "tough cookie" sentence. There will probably be an agent that likes it but on the other side, there will be those that find it a little off-putting.

    Overall, I think the pitch/query is improving and you're really getting there with this one. There are some excellent sentences and I like the last line with the failure of science. That is one of the best wordings of that sentence that I've seen from you so far.

    Good luck when you send out.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Diane, Francine, and Roland, thanks for your comments. Unfortunately I probably burned this bridge with my tough cookie line. *sigh* It isn't a good idea to write queries when you're tired and there isn't much info on this agent to find. I'm trying not to make this mistake in the future.

    Dom, thanks for the comments. I've made a changed a few things based from them.

    Dawn, It's nice to hear from someone who has seen some progression. Good to know I'm getting closer.

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  10. Great premise! I think that everyone pretty much touched on what I would suggest. I would, however, remove this questions --> "How can she warn the military without exposing her secrets?" Rework into a statment - questions like this turn off agents, so I've read. Well done!! :D

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  11. I agree with Brenda - rhetorical questions generally don't work in queries. Other than that I thought you did a great job!

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  12. Hi Charity! I agree with most of the suggestions made by the others. I think you've got a really strong blurb to work with.

    My one suggestion would be to get rid of the question How can she warn the military without exposing her secrets?

    Instead rearrange the thought into a solid statement. Something like Now she needs to find a way to warn the military without exposing her secrets. I think removing the question adds more power to the statement and ups the stakes.

    Good job so far and good luck!

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  13. I think what you need to clarify is how she does intend to defeat them. What's her goal in the novel? What specifically does she need to do?

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  14. Hello Charity! Thanks for commenting on my query. Lots of great advice. I see you have a lot of great advice here already.

    Here's what I was thinking when I read your query:

    Move P1 to the bottom because it is considered housekeeping (at least by the Query Shark anyway) and maybe don't tell her she's a "hard cookie to research." Agents might not want to know they're practically invisible in their industry. It won't gain you any points for seeking her out either.

    I love this line: How can she warn the military without exposing her secrets?

    I think that line is getting lost though and might have less of an impact.

    I like it so much I would start with it. It might read like this: How can Talia warn the military of the approaching invasion without exposing her secrets?

    I like P3 and P4 (of course having P3 reworked a little to take out the impact statement).

    But, I'm having a hard time with P5 because you introduce the Commander. This just solves much of the initial mystery. I think, Oh, okay, she managed to tell the military and it's all good. I would keep them guessing.

    Sounds like a very interesting story!

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  15. Astronomer Talia Shannon hides her magical abilities out of fear of becoming the national science project. She can glean energy from Sendek's binary suns to heal herself and others, communicate with trees, and is clairvoyant. Unfortunately, her prophetic nightmares point to an approaching invasion. How can she warn the military without exposing her secrets? She has spent her life searching for the scientific proof needed to warn and protect her planet.

    After thousands of years in exile, the Dragumen, a human dragon hybrid created in Sendek’s past, have returned to claim the planet as their own. Smarter and stronger than ever, (I JUST DELETED A SECTION. WE DON'T NEED TO KNOW HOW THEY PLAN TO DO IT, JUST THAT THEY DO.) they plan to wipe out the humans on Sendek.

    YOU'VE DONE WELL ON THIS QUERY FOR THE MOST PART. THE STORY SOUNDS INTERESTING.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is pretty solid, and the edits you've done are a great improvement. The core 3 (character+conflict+stakes) are clear. Everything is well outlined.

    I don't have any additional edits to encourage you to make. I think it's great. Well done!

    Scribbler to Scribe

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  17. They stole technology from the worlds they destroyed on the journey home, and perfected their military prowess. Now smarter and stronger, they plan to wipe out the humans on Sendek.

    How about changing this to: Having stolen technology from the other worlds they've already destroyed, the now smarter and stronger Dragumen plan to wipe out the humans on Sendek.

    Talia must learn to trust the magic coursing through in her veins and the handsome Commander Landry if she wants to survive the invasion. (this reads that the handsome Commander also has magic)

    Talia's blood lines lead back to the mage who created the Dragumen, giving her the power to destroy them - (I would add the dash for emphasis) if only she can learn how.

    Your closing line is perfect! I'm not a huge scifi fan, but this sounds like something I would enjoy. :)

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  18. I like your fixes! Move the first paragraph to be after the pitch. The first words should be "Astronomer Talia Shannon..."

    Also "Thank you for your time and consideration" cancels out "the manuscript is available at request" line, so ditch the available per request line altogether and just leave the thanks.

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  19. This is great, you have applied many of the comments to good use. There are a couple of places you can tighten it up a little more. I have suggested them below. Hope some of this helps.

    She gleans energy from Sendek's binary suns to heal herself and others, communicates with trees, and is clairvoyant.

    (How can she warn the military without exposing her secrets?)<=omit She has spent her life searching for the scientific proof needed to warn and protect her planet while maintiaing her secret.

    Talia must learn to trust the magic in her and the handsome Commander Landry)<=omit a handsome Commanderif she wants to survive the invasion

    Good luck,

    J

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  20. Brenda, WritersBlock, Tracy thanks for taking the time to comment. I did cut the question, but posted the new query in a new post.

    Elena, I'm still thinking about your suggestion. Talia doesn't really have a plan until 2/3rds into the story. It's more of a "I can't sit and wait for death without trying something" mindset.

    Patricia, Rachel, Stephanie, and Chris, thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate your help. I've used them to make some changes.

    Nicole and Jodi, it kills me to cut Landry from the query, but I did it anyway. He is my second main character for the series, the love interest, and well, awesome. He does have magic as well, but I think you're right that he needs to be a surprise. A yummy... oops, sorry.

    ReplyDelete

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